Coast Diary – June 18th: Newtown Woods Resources

This post is a resource for those wanting to send a submission to Waterford Council in regards to Newtown Woods. It’s far from comprehensive but feel free to use this information and copy and paste what you need Submissions in writing or by email, to reach Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford  iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022.

Old Wall, Summer 2022.

Back in 2007 a lot of locals here campaigned against a big development on our coast which is a Special Protected Area (SPA). At the centre of the campaign was the chough, a bird of the crow family that lives on cliffs. The campaign group was ignored by the County Council, who supported the development, with one councillor saying on local radio that ‘Choughs could go and live in trees’ for all she cared. To which I say ‘may a rat take up residence in your underpants’. 15 years on, in response to the current proposals at Newtown Woods, the Council Heritage Officer devotes a paragraph of her memo (See References and Links below) to choughs who, as noted, don’t live in trees. Perhaps in 15 years they will survey the trees to measure impacts on dolphins…

It’s true that the rest of that memo deals with use of modified lighting with regards to wildlife, particularly birds and bats, and the conservation of trees, but time and again it only commits to protect and preserve ‘where possible.’ And in their own proposal vis a vis lighting they add the rider that ‘PUBLIC LIGHTING TO BE RENEWED AND EXTENDED WHERE REQUIRED’ (Appendix 1). All of which leaves a lot of room for manoeuvre.

It should also be noted that in the memo, the developers have been asked to keep construction within the boundary fence and not store flammable chemicals outside it but as is obvious to all they have continuously stored construction materials outside the fence and under the trees, which is skating a bit close to the line if you ask me. That’s how much such agreements and conditions are valued.

Anyway the the main points of my submission are below.

  • Street lighting limited to the entrance of the housing development and not continue down the roads by and through the woods.
  • The containing wall is vital and needs to stay. 
  • Scrap the one way system.

Of specific concern in regarding the council’s proposals:

  • The proposed street lighting (even modified lighting) – disturbance to bird and bat life.
  • The possible planned removal of the containing wall – disturbance to flora and fauna, removal of food source, removal of insect habitat. Added light pollutions from passing cars.
  • The increase in traffic through the wood by the one-way system and by additional proposed apartments.
  • That these developments and proposals will pave the way for further developments including further lighting and impacts.
  • Lack of a proper survey of the woods itself, it’s flora and fauna and how they integrate.

I will also request a survey to benchmark the woods. In the best case, the woods will be ring fenced and managed for future generations. In the worst…well I have to try. As far as I am concerned, we cannot afford to lose the Newtown Woods habitat or have it changed even one iota. Below, some more information and links, including the Heritage Officers memo.

Next week I’ll be back to giving out about other stuff…

Appendix 1: Irish Woodlands and Newtown Woods in brief.

Ireland is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 9% wooded area and most of that being made up of commercial forests. Older woodlands are incredibly important and in fact are in an emergency situation. Newtown Woods contains Native trees such as oak and ash – which is under threat from ash dieback, a disease which came to Ireland in 2012 and is expected to wipe out most of our ash trees. Also present are sycamore and beech, considered non-natives but in fact long term resident on the island of Ireland.

Appendix 2: Heritage

Newtown Cove & Woods, Ordnance Survey Map, 1840.

This area is also part of our heritage, the woods and wall – which is also a habitat in itself as well as a provider of food for birds and a protection from traffic noise and light – being part of Lord Doneraile’s estates. Lord Doneraile was a title owned by the St. Ledger family who had estates in Cork and Waterford from the mid 1600s. Newtown House was built around 1750. By the early 1800s, Newtown was being managed by the Power family, still the dominant name in the area. Above is a map from 1840 which includes Newtown Woods. It was supposedly planted for commercial use – most likely for building carts, tools and out-buildings on the estate, and there is likely evidence of woods management from that period. It has not changed much since then however it has decreased to the northern edge where the developments are creeping in. But with the extra traffic this habitat will surely not last as long again.

Appendix 3: Benefits for Humans

Connection to nature is important for humans and this is acknowledged by initiatives like An Coillte’s Woodlands for Health program. Without going into it too deeply, Here is a recent evaluation of the program. Another evaluation (2014) noted that participants mood and sleep was noticeable improved by the program (Nairn, R,. 2020, p.58).

Appendix 4: Impacts

However, Human interaction with the woods demands knowledge and for that we need it surveys. For instance the recent building of dirt bike ramps in Newtown Woods and using branches cut from trees is a serious threat to this fragile environment and the council and others need to work harder to make sure this environment is properly appreciated.

Two of three dirt bike ramps, Newtown Woods.

Traffic

Traffic has already increased hugely on the road through the woods. Visitors to Newtown Cove have swelled through lockdown and will increase more with the added developments. Every single visitor to Newtown Cove now leaves by car through the woods. This must have impact despite any surveys which were conducted, apparently without local consultation. As a local I would calculate the one way system could have increased traffic by the power of ten.

Knock on Effects on Wildlife

The lack of surveys of the specific area of Newtown in relation to developments means that we cannot tell what knock on effects there are because of those developments. In the past there was a badger sett at the north east corner of the woods. This has now been abandoned most likely due to the building of the Newtown Glen estate. It is also likely that the recent influx of rabbits to Westtown is a result of the new Newtown Cliff development. What impact will they have on the Westtown habitat – for hares for instance? And the increased traffic – what species will we lose? The owls, the nesting sparrowhawk? Some birds will stay but lighting has in other areas caused disruption to sleep and therefore breeding patterns. There’s some more species mentioned in previous posts.

***

Waterford City and County Council Memo including conservation recommendations for Newtown Woods

To: Anne Doyle, Executive Planner
From:Bernadette Guest, Heritage Officer
Re:21/836 Residential development of 27 houses comprising 24 no. detached two storey houses and 3 no. single storey terraced houses and ancillary site works. This development is an extension of the already complete Newtown Glen housing development in Tramore.
Date:16th October 2021

It is noted the proposed development is located adjacent to the northern section of Newtown Woods.

Under Section 6.2.3  New Residential Development in  the Tramore Local Area Plan 2014-2020 ; The Council will aim to protect and preserve mature and semi-mature trees where possible and will require new developments to be so designed as to integrate existing trees into any new schemes. Sufficient distance should be maintained between existing mature trees and new buildings

Policy GI 1  states; The Council will preserve and enhance the amenity and biodiversity value of Tramore by preserving as far as possible trees, woodlands and hedgerows and will consider Tree Preservation Orders in order to protect trees of significance in the Plan area.

To ensure compliance with these policies the following conditions are recommended;

The development shall establish a 5m buffer zone from the boundary of the existing treeline of Newtown Woods.

All trees within the development site shall be protected by way of a 2m high wire mesh fence and be continuous outside the canopy and root protection area. The fenced and root protection area shall be a construction exclusion zone with no storage of fuels or chemicals in this area. The RPA fence shall remain in place for the duration of construction works.

Public lighting in the area adjacent to the woodland shall be designed to avoid unnecessary light spill in the  interests of  wildlife such as birdlife and foraging bats. Lighting scheme shall comprise low-pressure sodium lights  on low height  columns  and shall minimise light spills  by use of shields or louvers. Lights shall be restricted in this area to ensure dark periods for foraging and commuting birds and bats.

The site is approximately 120m north  of the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA designated for Chough, Herring Gull, Peregrine and Cormorant. The proposed development will not incur loss of habitat  from within the ecological footprint of the SPA and does not have direct or hydrological connectivity to the  SPA being separated by Newtown Woods. The proposed development will not incur loss of grassland habitat within or close to the SPA essential for feeding Chough  or lead to  reduction in water quality. It is considered the proposed development does not have potential  for significant effects on the conservation objectives  of the qualifying interests of the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA and can be screened out for further assessment.

References & Links

Ancestry Network, (2022), Tenants of Lord Doneraile in Cork & Waterford. Available at https://www.ancestornetwork.ie/tenants-of-lord-doneraile-ck-wd-1765/ [accessed 17/06/2022]

Nairn, R., (2020), Wild Woods, Dublin: Gill Books.

Waterford Council, (2022), Active Travel Scheme, Newtown, Tramore, Available at https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/06/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme-3/amp/ [accessed 17/06/2022]

Planning Drawings https://waterfordcouncil.ie/media/projects/public-consultations/2022/newtown-hill/Newtown%20Hill%20-%20Part%208%20Planning%20Drawings.pdf

***Please note other plans and drawings are available on the Waterford Council Active Travel Proposal. Link in Reference section.

Coast Diary – June 11th

You may have seen in the news this week that Fair Seas, a new coalition made up of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), the Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Coastwatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Friends of the Irish Environment, SWAN and the Irish Environmental Network, have published a report calling for the protection of 30% of our coastal waters. Currently only 2% is protected. Theres a link to the report below but here is an image of the areas they are suggesting protecting.

As you can see, this is some good news for those who want to keep proposed windfarms 20km or more off the Waterford and East Cork coast where turbines have been proposed between 5-8km off shore. Though of course there are ways to work around protected areas. I have written elsewhere about the windfarms and intend to do some more research, primarily around how environmental impact is measured. The issues around Newtown Woods, which I have written about in the last weeks, have demonstrated how surveys are skewed. In the Newtown Woods case, the only areas surveyed were Natura 2000 sites, all between 3-30 miles away from the woods. In the windfarm’s case, most species may not be included in a survey because they are ‘migratory’ but show me a whale or dolphin or even a fish that’s not!

I do know change is inevitable and some development is desirable (imagine if it could be intelligent development!) but I find the disingenuouness – to put it mildly – that accompanies these changes really annoying. A part of me sometimes thinks I would be much happier if developers and councils and others (like the people near me who have just chopped down a load of trees in high nesting season) would just say “Look, we are going to kill all sorts of things and make everywhere look shit, get over it”. At least we would know where we stand.

But its not all bad. Waterford Council’s recent alignment with an All Ireland Pollinator Plan which allows certain roundabouts and verges to grow wild, is not only heartening but quite beautiful to behold. I have heard people give out about the council a lot and imply that destruction is only to be expected from them – I have succumbed to these thoughts too – but I don’t think that’s necessarily true and that mindset is not helpful. And as individuals I have always found them friendly and ready to help. For instance many council workers have helped me locate dolphin carcasses which I record for the IWDG.

Regarding Newtown Woods, I am still gathering information with the help of a number of people. I have been walking most days past the woods, where, at dusk I have tried playing long-eared owl calls in the hope of getting some replies. No joy yet. Might be too early for chicks. Anyway, next week I will publish as much information as I have for people to copy and paste into submissions they might like to make to the council regarding proposed road and lighting upgrades. For submissions contact Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford or by emailing iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022.
Submissions should be clearly marked Submission Part 8 Newtown Hill in the subject line.

I also picked up a book from the library this week. Wild Woods by Richard Nairn is a celebration of Irish woodlands and also the story of how he bought and learned to manage his own piece of woodland in Wicklow. I haven’t started it yet but I am looking forward to reading it.

I have also been walking along the coast, to Kilfarrasy and Garrarus, but I have not been swimming. Partly because of an ongoing ear problem but it’s also because of the change that has occurred since the lockdown – the increase in traffic to the coast, the influx of drivers, walkers and swimmers hogging the roads and the bathing spots with little care for residents. Along with the Newtown Woods plans and the uptick in (ugly) house building it has made me quite despondent. I know I am lucky though because I am very far from being able to own property in this lovely area – or anywhere. But my place here is becoming incrementally more precarious and watching the change is like being trapped in a long drawn out goodbye. But, I’ll get over it. Worse things happen at sea…

Building materials storedat the edge of Newtown Woods

Links & References

https://fairseas.ie/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Revitalising_Our_Seas_Report_Marine_Protected_Areas_Fair_Seas.pdf

Coast Diary – June 4th

Into the woods…

Apologies to those further afield but today’s post will again be about Newtown Woods on Tramore Bay and the possible impacts of recent and proposed developments. Perhaps it will be of use generally as a small case study.

This week I have noticed there is a further massive development planned nearby too, slightly further from the woods. 58 dwellings in apartment blocks of all things (marked in blue on the map below). However I am very late to that particular party (I admit it, I have been turning a blind eye in recent years. Environmental campaigns can be draining) and residents have organised to fight this. Last I heard its been given the go ahead but I am assuming there will be appeals, so while its worrying – the traffic alone would be impossible – I am ignoring it here. Any information or updates on that can be shared in the comments below.

I have three areas of concern around the Council proposals for the roads around Newtown woods.

Lighting: I am still unclear about what the council means to do re road lighting around Newtown Woods. Their plans only include a notice saying PUBLIC LIGHTING TO BE RENEWED AND EXTENDED WHERE REQUIRED [my bold italics] which gives them a lot of room to manoeuvre and could lead to lighting in the woods themselves. There are already lighting columns installed in the development – as marked on the first map above.

Boundary Wall: Regarding the old wall, I believe it is important for plant and insect life which in turn feeds the birds. And I suspect it also protects the lower part of the woodland from the elements and from light and car pollution. I had heard rumours months ago that it would be knocked down and as it is nowhere on the plans – even on the ‘before’ drawings – I am assuming now they are definitely going to knock it. I don’t think that should be allowed.

Traffic: The one way system introduced in late 2021 means that all the traffic leaving Newtown Cove – which is not inconsiderable – is channelled up through the woods. This is likely in preparation for the development of the apartment blocks. I think all of this should be scrapped.

I also have a concern about the so called environmental surveys and how they were conducted not only for the Council’s proposals but for the developments at Newtown Glen and Carrigeenlea. It seems likely that none of them took into account the local environment because it is not designated as a protected area. But Newtown Woods is an important habitat, deciduous woods are becoming rare and there will be species of plants and birds within the woods that are protected. However it seems those commissioning surveys only have to include areas on the Natura 2000 list which is on the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) site here. The sites for Waterford are below. They are either SPA (Special Protected Areas), SAC (Special Areas of Conservation). An additional categorization is an NHA (National Heritage Area).

Ardmore Head SAC (002123)
Blackwater Callows SPA (004094)
Blackwater Estuary SPA (004028)
Blackwater River (Cork/Waterford) SAC (002170)
Comeragh Mountains SAC (001952)
Dungarvan Harbour SPA (004032)
Glendine Wood SAC (002324)
Helvick Head SAC (000665)
Helvick Head to Ballyquin SPA (004192)
Lower River Suir SAC (002137)
Site Name: Mid-Waterford Coast SPA (004193)
Nire Valley Woodlands SAC (000668)
River Barrow and River Nore SAC (002162)
Tramore Back Strand SPA (004027)
Tramore Dunes and Backstrand SAC (000671)

It is notable that the only woodlands protected are in the west of the county.

Of course SPAs and SACs can quickly become irrelevant in the face of big money. In the case of proposed developments at Garrarus c. 2007 for instance, the council, surreptitiously passed an addition to a local law that allowed for construction along the Waterford Coast, an SPA that includes a UNESCO heritage site. That development didn’t happen most likely because of the crash of 2008 though there was a huge local campaign too.

So – I contacted the NPWS and explained the situation and asked how to begin the process of protecting the woods and I am waiting for further contact and have expressed interest in meeting with a local ranger. In the mean time I have been looking at what Newtown Woods actually is and why it is of value so that in my submssion can request that a proper environmental impact assessment to be done specific to Newtown Woods in relation to proposed and future developments. Questions I have asked myself are…

  1. What area does Newtown Woods cover? (with a view to including a clearance area for light etc.)
  2. What are the woods is made up of?
  3. Who lives there?

I reached out to some friends and interested parties, including Tramore Eco Group, to help with a preliminary survey of the woods and below are some results…

1. What area does Newtown Woods cover?

Using an online acreage calculator and guesstimating the woods at 400m by 100m (its wider than that at one point and narrower than that at others – I have come up with 9.88 or roughly 10 acres. Feel free to correct me.

2. What is the wood made up of?

Tramore Eco Group observations: ‘Good variety of broadleaved trees: Oak, ash, sycamore, alder, beech, horse chestnut.  Many elms regenerating and some quite established which is good given the devastating effects of Dutch Elm disease.  Not so good that some ash may be exhibiting signs of die back.  Dense cover of hawthorn, blackthorn and bramble and various species of ferns (worthy of a Victorian garden, but happily, wild!).’

3. Who Lives There?

Animals

There are foxes and rabbits in the area. Rabbits have increased suddenly in Westtown and this may be because developments have pushed them west.

Birds  

A bird watcher friends tells me there is a sparrowhawk (protected) currently nesting there. Another bird watcher friend tells me there are tree creepers there too as well as wrens, robins, tits and blackbirds and possibly barn owls. There were barn owls in Westtown previously but they left after some bog was cleared about a decade ago. Tramore Eco group observations: ‘Thrushes, chiffs-chaffs, chaffinches, blackbirds, wood pigeons & possibly a blackcap singing [during a 30 minute walk].’ Along with plentiful rooks and pigeons, I have seen a pair of coal tits (the only place I have ever seen them), a pair of bullfinch (once), a grey wagtail, gold crest and gold finches. I have heard young, long-eared owls here too – they sound like a squeaky gate.

Bats

According to local environmentalist who has completed bat surveys here, there are two types of bat here, the Pipistrelle and Leisler’s Bat.

Insects

Tramore Eco Group observations – ‘Saw 3 white butterflies, 1 seven-spot ladybird, 1 Buff-tailed Bumblebee, 2 Common Carder bees [during a 30 minute walk].’

Flora

Tramore Eco Group onservations – ‘Flowering wild plants also present: wood aven, common vetch, bush vetch, Germander speedwell, thyme-leaved speedwell, wood sage, figwort, common mouse ear, ground ivy, (native) bluebell, 3-cornered leek, bulbous buttercup, field buttercup, herb Robert, cut-leaved cranesbill, trefoil (hop?), yarrow, wild carrot, cleavers, woodrush, sorrel (sheep’s ?), pennywort, bindweed, woodbine & many grasses. The above is merely a taster of the more obvious flora and fauna –  there are many more species in this precious place!’

Containing Wall Tramore Eco Group observations –‘The old wall is a treasure trove of mosses, ferns and many other plants and neither it nor the woodland area on both sides of the road should be interfered with, in my opinion. ‘

This is preliminary stuff but already I have a better picture of what we have with Newtown Woods even though I have walked through it for years. I will update on any other information as it comes and on any submission I make and how to do it for yourselves. June 28th is the cut off point. Hopefully I will get some other coast stuff covered in the next posts. Have a good weekend.

Coast Diary – May 29th

Last week I mentioned the proposed developments around Newtown Woods – on the west side of Tramore Bay – to support new builds there. I still haven’t yet had a chance to do more than skim these plans – which include street lighting and a cycle path. It may be that this work is needed but what is immediately apparent is that the environmental impact survey included for these upgrades, and presumably for the recent builds in the area, does not include Newtown Woods or Newtown Cove. It seems they are not protected areas or more specifically Natura 2000 sites. Natura 2000 sites are home to some of the 2000 species, and 230 habitat types, deemed to be most at risk and of European importance to protect. The impact survey does include the Back Strand, which is a few miles distant, as well as the Blackwater and The Nire Valley – at the other end of the county. Which seems a tad disingenuous. This is from the Explanatory Report…

The ecological sites …. are a Special Area of Conservation named Tramore Dunnes [sic] and Back Strand SAC, Site Code 000671, a Special Protection Area named Tramore Back Strand SPA, Site Code 004027, and a Special Protection Area named Mid-Waterford Coast SPA, Site Code 004193. None of the above sites are located within the scheme extent. It can be concluded that the proposed scheme, individually or in combination with other plans or projects, will have no effect on any of the ecological sites.

The environmental assessment – which the developments passed in flying colours seeing as they are nowhere near the environments assessed – is uselessly expanded on to include impacts on, among others, otter, salmon, lamprey, shad, godwit, and chough residing in the Blackwater River, Lower River Suir Dungarvan Bay, Blackwater Callows, Blackwater Estuary, Helvick Head – Ballyquin Coast, Mid Waterford Coast. Newtown Woods or its environs are not mentioned. It’s a bit chilling to think that the new estate which, in creeping up to the edge of this tiny woods saw materials stacked at the treeline, and which will presumably have street lighting, did not need to provide an environmental assessment for the area, only for the Back Strand – miles away. Too late now.

However there are a few areas where there may be some leverage to protect this little habitat. Bats are included and includes also all species outside designated sites [my italics]. And in the ‘Bat’ section – on page 24 of the Explanatory report – there is this addendum…

Along with above, in general all sites with any of the following; woods, mature treelines and hedgerows, old buildings and bridges. Activities that result in loss of woodland or hedgerow habitat or causes disturbance to roost sites.

Those in the locality will realise that Newtown Wood had two old bridges until they were replaced last year by the council which in retrospect has weakened the case for protecting the woods. Handy that. Additionally the one way system brought in at the end of last year that forces visitors to leave Newtown Cove via the woods instead of along Cliff Road means traffic has increased to a huge extent so the woods are being disturbed even as we speak. I wonder was there a survey done for that? I personally would love to see a return to two-way traffic which seems unlikely now.

But all is not lost – the mature trees and the old wall running down towards the turn off to the woods are necessary to both bats and bird species – including long eared owls – and should be taken into account. We had barn owls here too until a small area of bog was cleared a decade or so back. In such ways is nature pushed aside – bit by bit. Anyway, I feel the wall needs to stay and the street lighting should not be put in alongside the woods there if that is what is planned (its difficult to tell from the online drawings). And that is where I will be directing my concerns. I am one individual and a busy one at that and if anyone else is concerned they should also make submissions in writing to…

Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford or byn emailing iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022.
Submissions should be clearly marked Submission Part 8 Newtown Hill in the subject line.

Any information on species and habitats within the Newtown Woods area can be included in the comments below. This can include anything from sightings to more detailed knowledge. For instance I saw a pair of bullfinch in the woods two years back, the only time I have seen them there. Has anyone else seen them or similar? ncidentally I also saw bullfinch once in the trees running down by the Newtown Glen Housing Estate, trees which were disturbed by the recent roadworks there. What about the old wall?Does it support plant and insect species? What will pulling it down disturb? You can comment below or contact me via the contact form. I would love if an Ecological group wood take this up too as its too much for one person.

Shares and Likes appreciated on this one folks.

Coast Diary – May 21st

I’m back – what did I miss?

May is in full swing – its been sunny and rainy and occasionally even warm. The big field below is a sea of green barley, the swallows are gaining strength and numbers while the rabbits continue to proliferate. I have found out that, as I suspected, rabbits are not usually so numerous here and there’s no real reason for the recent influx mentioned in a previous post. The foxes are still about according to a neighbour, as are the buzzards – though I have not seen Buzz in his tree in a while. Hatching eggs I suppose. The ditches, all a-twitter with wrens and tits and robins, are green and bursting and the whitethorn has blossomed, its flowers like exploding popcorn. It is even on the wane already in some places while I am still awaiting for the tree out the back to take off. When I was younger I used to think of summer as a time where everything stays at its peak for the set number of weeks we call ‘The Summer’. Now I know that change is constant and even as I watch this peaking I see the other side of it – the green yellowing, the flowers wilting, the swallows gathering and going. Nothing is constant.

And down the road the change is even faster than I had thought it would be when I started this diary. Recent roadworks have caused traffic havoc, but now the new storm drains are in, the local council have published further plans to cater to the latest wave of housing. If all this building I am seeing was solving the problem of where to live I’d probably keep my silence – but somehow none of us can afford these houses. Since the Celtic Tiger, successive governments have pushed the house as an investment opportunity rather than a necessity, and buying-to-let has pushed prices up to ensure profits for global investors. There has not been a concurrent evolution in renters rights either. But I digress – if you want to read more, you could do worse than follow Rory Hearne, a local lad, on these issues https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/ireland-investment-housing-5428746-May2021/

Anyway, once this side of Tramore bay was more or less rural but since the eighties the red roofs have spread like a rash that is now tipping the edge of the little woods I have mentioned here before. From afar you can see the tops of the trees of Newtown Wood springing from the narrow glen that runs down to Newtown Cove. Off to the left and right of the woods stand two tall pine trees, perhaps the remnants of a once larger forest. Down in the glen, the trees are ivy covered and tall and fragile looking. An unlit road curves picturesquely through it as the leaves above shiver and coo and croak with pigeons and rooks and robins, coal tits, grey wagtails, magpies, gold crest and others, many of them feeding on the insects living in the cracked, old wall that edges the woods. In May it is carpeted with bluebells. In summer you might hear the creak of an owl and in the evening, at dusk, you will see for certain the little bats whirling about.

As yet I have only skimmed the plans for the woods but I do know that streetlighting is planned for the road along the wall beside it and it is likely that that wall will come down to make way for the planned cycle paths and pavements – which are no use to bats or owls and just as well as the light will see them off. It is unclear whether trees will be taken down – the language is typically oblique. And I imagine, as the houses have approached the wood, the street-lighting will soon enough make its way down the road that runs through it. Apparently there will somehow be a reduction in traffic but how this will happen when there are more houses than ever is beyond me. There is a four week consultation period – which started this week – and I will be making a contribution. I suggest if you care about these woods you do something too.

Here is the link to the plans https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/05/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme/

Watching the rabbits this evening, I thought again of that book Watership Down and how a superstitious person might take their curious proliferation in a place they were once so scarce as an omen. The book begins just before high summer. The rabbits notice a new sign near their warren as the sun sets red, the field seeming to run with blood, and they know it means something, perhaps even something bad, but do not forsee the scale of the destruction that will be very shortly visited upon them to make way for the houses of men.

National Drawing Day: If you’re in Waterford city today, Saturday May 21st, myself and my artist pal Julie Cusack are hosting a Drawing Day at Garter Lane Arts Centre in the Courtyard. Drop in (and drop out) any time between 11 am and 4pm for as much or as little time as suits you and try your hand at drawing or mark making to salsa music, or just for a look. All levels welcome. Free tea and coffee (and biscuits!)

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